Customer Reviews: The Essential Guide to Flex 2 with ActionScript 3.0 (Essentials)
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on March 20, 2007
Flex 2 with Actionscript 3.0 by Charles E. Brown

This book, written to a relatively low level, and with an intent to be comprehensive, is relentlessly procedural. The first hundred pages or so take you through installing Flex Builder and then step by step through some really simple mxXML based projects. There are truly some weird little "gotchas" that I doubt I would have noticed any other way but reading this book. In short, reading this book I know will save me countless hours of time, simply for revealing some drudge details that could have really messed me up, like the different kinds of quotation marks used when passing an argument to an Actionscript function from within an MX-based object. Plus I know what Flex is, and what it is not.

You can expect to know about layout containers, too. Consider the following:

"As you can see, there are 16 layout containers. Throughout this book we will cover nearly all of them. However, for now you'll just be concerned with the seven most commonly used ones, described in the following list: Hbox, Vbox, Canvas, Panel, Tile, ApplicationControlBar, and ControlBar" (This is not an exact quote; Brown gives the distinguishing characteristics for each, and follows with a procedural exploration of how to use them, complete with screen shots).

The author has a flex website, charlesebrown dot net . Check it out!

If you don't know anything about Flex and AS3 and you want to know it all, this isn't a bad place to start. If you like working step by step along with software, its perfect.You surely won't begrudge the author his diligent and thorough approach and basically good attitude even though the book is not too exciting. If you already know Flex, or Actionscript, this book will probably be too basic for you.
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VINE VOICEon March 15, 2007
First of all this book is an easy read. Mr. Brown does a good job of taking small steps and explaining everything clearly as he goes. At each stage, he does a good job of building on what he's already covered.

The book is clearly aimed at those with very little experience in Flex or ActionScript. If you've already been programming for a while with Flex (even an earlier version of Flex) I think you'll find the pace too slow.

I can recommend the book to those starting out with Flex or ActionScript.

For the rest of us, there are more advanced books that will fill out our Flex and Actionscript knowledge, such as a AdvancED ActionScript Components by Antonio De Donatis.
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on April 11, 2007
Flex 2 with ActionScript 3.0

By Charles E. Brown

Publisher: Friends of Ed

Copyright 2007

IBSN:-13 (pbk) 978-1-59059-733-0

Reviewer: Linda Weller

The author explains Flex in a very interesting instructive way. It explains the meaning of Flex and ActionScript 3.0 in the new Flash landscape.

One of the great things about this book is that the author looks at all aspects of Flex from high/low levels and from a designer/developer perspective. It was great to discover if you can use XML or Dreamweaver you can use Flex. Flex will bring the web to a new level. Flex was introduced in 2004 as a solution to having to learn about Flash's scenes and timelines. Flex is a more traditional programming environment. It combines .mxml and ActionScript 3.0. The author urges everyone to "stop thinking page to page website and think smooth flowing desktop applications. Flex Builder 2 is built around Eclipse. The GUI uses XHTML and OOP. You use ActionScript 3.0 to extend the power of .mxml. When you add ActionScript 3.0 to Flex you can add dynamic interaction between your components. When you compile an application to a .swf it transforms the .mxml code to ActionScript 3.0 The goal of Flex is rapid development. You use ActionScript to connect the components together and .mxml to tell Flex how to assemble pre-build containers.

When beginning to do work in Flex he suggests that you start in design view and then move to code view to fine tune things. One of the benefits of using Flex over HTML is that it has adjustability to many sizes. You could take the same application you used on the web and scale it down for mobile for example. The downside of .mxml is that it can't loop or make decisions so you need ActionScript 3.0 for this. In AS 3.0 we now have Sprite which is essentially a Movie Clip without a timeline. Charles Brown explains that between the CDATA tags is where your ActionScript code is placed.

To create a new .mxml document you must first create a new Flex project. The main purpose of Flex is to present data and therefore it is called a presentation server. Flex applications are build by creating containers within containers the application tags being the outermost containers.

He covers the Navigation Containers: View Stack, Accordian and Tab Navigator. These are the ingredients that give Flex its rapid development reputation. New class files for the easy access of XML have been implemented called E4X. The section about displaying data with a data grid presents another rapid development feature. He discusses states which give you the timeline functionality without the timeline. He makes the distinction that Flex is not an animation program so, it will not be replacing Flash. He wraps up the last part of the book by launching into a two part case study of building a shopping cart utilizing all the concepts he has introduced earlier in the book.
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on June 15, 2007
I purchased this book to learn about Flex 2 and ActionScript 3.0. I am an experienced programmer, though only a part-time one at work, but am new to both Flex and ActionScript.

I really like Mr. Brown's approach throughout the book. Concepts are presented well and usually thoroughly. But, he always takes a step to the side to explain things a little further or tie the concept to other parts of the programming world. The approach is nice. It makes the book feel as though Mr. Brown is your friend or coworker, sitting with you to help you learn and explaining things in several different ways so that you can "get it." Parts are technical enough, while others can be very down to earth.

The only problem I had is that some topics are not addressed to a more advanced level. For example, the chapter on states covers the basics, but only with Flex (both source and design methods though). The ActionScript way of doing states is not even discussed. Now granted, Mr. Brown did say in his introduction that the book is a broad view of things, so this omission is not a big deal and can be expected since no one book can cover everything. It just requires a different source if you desire to use ActionScript to handle states, which is needed for handling states from runtime user input (something I am very interested in). To me, states are huge in Flex and I would have liked it if Mr. Brown had discussed more about it. However, my rating remains at 5 stars since this is not enough to lower it at all. Mr. Brown did accomplish what he said he would do in his introduction and the book is an excellent resource for learning and understanding Flex 2, ActionScript 3.0, and how they tie into other things like XML, ColdFusion, etc.

Also, the case study Mr. Brown has is a fully functional project that ties a lot of things together and includes a lot of both Flex 2 design and ActionScript 3.0 code. Mr. Brown leads you through the design of the case study in a way that makes learning and understanding the concepts easier.

I would recommend this book to anyone that wants to learn Flex 2. It was well worth it and it continues to help me develop in Flex 2.
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on May 4, 2007
Back in the day (2003) before Flex existed I had always been trying to find a way to provide that rich internet experience (even before the term RIA existed) for my users, and I knew Flash was the key.

However almost all books at the time were geared towards Flash as an animation and design tool for making rich media experiences (animation, games, etc...), and none of them focused on Flash purely for making Applications - except for one: Foundation Flash MX Applications by Friends of Ed (co-authored by Cairngorm genius Steven Webster).

A very good book that helped me achieve making some rudimentary RIAs. But as a developer minded person, I wasn't able to get much further until Flex came along and enabled developers who operate on lines of code instead of timelines to make feature rich and rapidly engineered RIAs.

Fast forward to today, and the folks at Friends of Ed are out with their first Flex 2 book titled: The Essential Guide to Flex 2 with ActionScript 3.0.

The book assumes you have no prior knowledge of Flex, Flash, or ActionScript and covers a lot of bases including covering the basics of Object Oriented Programming, and how ActionScript implements it.

One of the challenges of writing a book about Flex is it's hard to isolate a topic and provide examples that don't require utilizing features yet to be discussed. So the approach that they take is to progressively (from a learning curve perspective vs topic perspective) introduce the features needed to fully discuss the primary topic. The result is as you go along your understanding of how things work in Flex progressively increases.

I definitely recommend this book for those who are interesting in seriously learning Flex, especially if you have no exposure to Flash and ActionScript. Actually the book starts you off so fresh that you don't even really need much programming experience to get going.
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on April 10, 2007
I've worked on several enterprise level applications (10,000+ users) and this book has helped me work through some of the initial problems I was having. If you're looking for a good book on how to integrate Flex 2 and Actionscript 3.0, you'll like this book.
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on March 10, 2007
This book is for designers and Flex beginners! Very very basic and brief introduction to Flex 2 and some Action Script 3.0, but nothing in-depth. The examples in the book, for me personally, are way too simple. It's a good starting book for newbies and designers, but for serious programmers, this is not the one. The Flex documentation has deeper examples than this book. I've only been using Flex for about one month and this book seems too basic to me.
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on July 15, 2007
I read the first three chapters of this book and it has tied a lot of loose ends together. I have some familiarity with all the technologies required to write Flex applications but I was having trouble figuring out how they worked together. This book does a nice job of introducing each piece of the puzzle (ActionScript, MXML, Flex 2, OOP). It assumes you have programmed before, most likely in a procedural language like C which is practical for me, since that is my background (20+ years). He does a nice job of comparing procedural to object oriented methodology so that you can transform your thinking. It is also a pretty casual book, so you get a chuckle once in a while. Not as dry as I would have expected the topic to be. I would recommend this book for those with this type of background.
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on March 9, 2007
Really should be 5 stars but..The book could be really great once they get all the right files posted and the erratta page updated so you can at least complete the lessons! Until then don't waste your time.. Also there are several gotchas so be careful it appears that no one went through the book as a customer would! You cannot complete some of the lessons. I noticed they did put up an Errata page but so far only one (1) of the many mistakes have been posted. To be honest if they HAD had some one try to do the lessons they would have caught all of these issues....$50.00 is alot for a book that makes you work so hard....I am hoping that they fix these soon because the writing style and the lessons (when you can complete them) are quite good.....I have a great suggestion for the publishers...Test , when your done ..Test know kinda like Flex developer have to ..just a thought and yes I am a bit bitter...

Once these issues are address it will be a great starter book...too bad for Charles these issues make his book less than stellar....right Now
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on July 30, 2007
This book is my first introduction to Flex and Actionscript. I find the although I'm an experienced technical professional reiterating some of the basics is helpful in learning a new product and Charles Brown has defintely achieved that for me without being insulting or redundant in this book. There are a few issues with the downloads (mostly the assets not being in an asset folder as they claim to be in the book) and there are definitely some issues with the examples but if you're careful you can usually work them out for yourself. Over all it's a pretty good read and will definitely teach you a few basics of Flex, more so than Actionscript.
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